Tuesday 9 May 2017

Going soft in my old age

Well what a turn around. I mentioned in the last blog that when I was to build the gully that I would be using plaster for the walls. This has turned out only partly true as I decided to try out some soft rock modelling.
There is a guy, Mark Fry who wrote an article sometime ago in the Australian Model Railroader Magazine on making soft rocks. Alas I had given away the particular issue with the article in it. No worries, I'll have a go my way. So I reached for the soldering iron, cranked it up and then tried a few swipes across the foam to see how it would go. Plenty of smoke issued and after it had cleared I could see that the end result would be promising.
By nature the foam has a lot of holes in it, so I tried some aerosol putty over the foam. The improvement was only marginal and not used again. I also tied a weak plaster mix over the foam and this was also okay but the thicker it was applied I started wondering why I was using the foam underneath.
So the end result was a mixture of three scenery methods. I had the chicken wire, foam soft rocks and some plaster.
Being my first time doing the soft rock method I was pondering how to hold the foam against the chicken wire in the upper reach of the gully. I thought of using some glue but then settled for some wire bent into a hairpin shape, poked through the foam and then twisted over when it went through the chicken wire. This worked well.
I had tried some test section of the foam and used some Tamiya Khaki drab paint over the foam to darken it up. Using up a jar quickly was going to prove expensive to do the whole module. At at recent visit to Bunnings I remembered that you can get sample pots. The beauty of this is you don't have to tell the guy mixing the paint what the product will be used for. He probably though that I didn't have a very good choice of colours when I asked for a sample pot of a paint called 'Harold'. While the name tells you nothing regarding its colour, it was probably named after the guy who came up with the colour. It was the closest colour that I could get to the khaki drab.
On the creek floor I put some rocks that I had gathered at some time and glued them into place like I normally do for track ballast. After a day of drying this worked well. While at Bunnings I looked for a thick liquid sealer that I previously used in the original gully. So stupid me had thrown away the empty tin and I couldn't find a similar product. I had to settle for a resin that it used for fiberglassing, the one that needs a hardener added. I mixed a small amount, this being the first time I had used this product. It seemed to settle down amongst the rocks okay and was hard on the second day. I also put some white fibre into the resin but it still needs a second lot over it. Viewed from a few feet away it doesn't look too bad.
The left hand side of the gully wall won't be visible from the front of the layout when it gets into its final position so it will be only a cosmetic makeover.
In the photo on the right I have also started to apply some greenery to the walls, It then starts coming to life. The results of the foam soft rock can also be seen. I am happy with the end results and are now on the lookout for more foam. Damm I remember going past a council cleanup pile once and saw a complete mattress chucked out, didn't want it then but do now. It seems a waste to buy the foam new and then convert it into soft rocks. I'm still not sure if the gully looks O scale or not, once I get a few O scale objects into the scene then I'll know.
Some progress has been made with the foam soft rocks now wrapping around both sides of the gully walls. The left photo clearly shows the foam wired into the chicken wire awaiting the soldering iron to rough it up a little.
In isolsation when you get up close to some foam it doesn't look all that good but when the greenery, weathering and all other things you do to it, then it comes into its own. Compared with plaster modelling the soft rock system is a lot cleaner and less messy and less clean up afterwards.
You can see on the gully walls where the paint 'Harold' has done his stuff. It is a good basecoat colour and can then be highlighted with other lighter colours.
I also had a large amount of white foam on hand and broke up several large chunks, then glued them into the corner with an acrylic glue. Don't use the normal liquid nails glue as it will melt the foam. 
The original test piece of foam is in the front of the picture at the left.
For the first falls I reverted to using plaster as I found it would mould into shapes that I couldn't do with the foam. Sometimes when you get part way through doing some scenery you get disheartened with the results. When you look at the above photo it certainly doesn't look anything great. But bit by bit it all comes together in the end. The white plaster soon gets a dose of 'Harold' and straight away looks like rock. I am also feeling my way with this one. When putting it all together there are gaps that will appear between different scenery material, just stick some greenery there and the gaps will go away.
 I have put some more rocks into the waterfall scene, the above photo shows some ballast glue dribbling down the waterfall fixing the rocks into place. Also at the front can be seen some plaster rocks that I made by breaking up some foam rocks then dipping them into a watery plaster mixture. These rocks have bulk without weight. Harold has also got to these rocks as a base colour, they will be speckled later with other colours for variation.
As I said in the previous post I need to complete all this scene before I get the bridge into place. I am frustrated by the slowness of this work, it has many layers of work before the final result.

I'll finish off this blog with the progress to date, much more work will need to be done before I am satisfied. Remember everytime you do any scenery work it is all part of a learning curve, each time you do something it should get better than the last.


  1. Bob, it looks pretty good to me, you haven't lost 'the touch'.

    Ray P

  2. Thanks Ray, a work in progress

  3. Bob, Looks great, you have really got the knack for rock faces, and it appears in a couple of photos there, you have used the bedhead to support the scenery !!